Top Chicago Family Attractions
Chicago weather can be tricky, but whenever you decide to visit the Windy City during summer or winter, there are plenty of indoor and outdoor activities to enjoy. And don’t forget that Chicago is incredibly child-friendly with tons of museums and events for kids of all ages, toddlers included! Here is a list of the most popular destinations you should check out that kids of all ages will love.
This dense area has several museums, the Soldier Field, home of the NFL Chicago Bears Football team and the McCormick Center. This area is ideal if you are looking for a warm place to hang during cold days in Chicago. However, do not miss a visit during the summer. Kids love the attractions in these museums.
The Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum of Natural History are particularly engaging for children interested in biology and the natural world. The Shedd Aquarium offers an array of hands-on exhibitions for sea life lovers. In the Field Museum of Natural History, dinosaur buffs can marvel at Sue, the largest and bbest-preserved T-Rex ever found.
Is your child curious to know more about the sky and the universe? Adler Planetarium is the right place to go for young stargazers.
Top tip – Get to the Museum Campus by water taxi. You can take it at Navy Pier and finish your trip at the Museum Campus dock. Kids will love the mini adventure!
Art Institute of Chicago
A visit to the Art Institute of Chicago is something you must do with your kids. No matter how small they are, this incredible museum has activities for children of all ages and excellent facilities. The best place for toddlers and preschool-aged children is the Ryan Learning Center with its Vitale Family Room where they can play with blocks and animals, read art books and assemble puzzles. The center is suitable also for school-aged children (6 to 12 years old) with dedicated workshops and the opportunity for them to plan an interactive tour of the museum. Do not miss the Artist’s Studio where kids can create art projects linked to artworks in the Art Institute’s collection or special exhibitions. Check the museum website for special events or to book in advance for workshops and activities.
Chicago Children’s Museum
Are you traveling with toddlers or younger tots? The Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier is every youngster’s wonderland. Specially tailored for kids aged up to 5 (with a play area for babies too), it offers a myriad of attractions spread over three floors. Just know that in the Treehouse Trails kids can fish, camp and climb and in the Kids’ Town they can change a tire, wash a car and drive a bus. Don’t miss the Dinosaur Expedition and the Water Ways.
Top tip: Try to schedule your visit during the week as it can be very crowded on Saturdays and Sundays.
Cloud Gate Sculpture
More widely known as The Bean, this metallic sculpture by Anish Kapoor is one of the focal points of Millennium Park. Your kids will love seeing their reflection on its surface and taking pictures.
Concerts at Millenium Park
Millennium Park with the Jay Pritzker Pavillion is the perfect spot for a lovely picnic in the summer while seeing a show. Tons of family go there to enjoy live music or a movie while sipping some wine. The kids will love having fun on the grass and they will make many new friends to play with.
Maggie Daley Park
If you are looking for an outdoor play area, the Maggie Delay Park is the newest and most central place Chicago has to offer for its younger visitors. Within its vast 20 acres (8 hectares), this park contains gardens and multiple activities for children to enjoy: an enchanted forest with a web of pathways to explore; areas for imaginative play, such as a ship and harbor with boats; a watering hole in the mini golf and a climbing wall. And of course, don’t miss the Skating Ribbon in winter!
Lincoln Park Farm and Zoo
Like in every other big city in the world, Chicago has a zoo (and kids love it). For the younger ones, there is a farm near the main zoo entrance with two barns – a dairy with cows and goats where kids can assist the milking process and the barn with play stations. The farm also hosts a sing-along performance on Wednesday and Friday mornings at 9:15. On Saturdays at 10 am there is a play about the origins of food. Don’t miss a visit at dusk during wintertime when the bright display of the ZooLights give the place a festive feel.
Museum of Science and Industry
Home to the only German submarine in the US, the U-505 captured during WWII, the MSI is an amazing place to take your kids. They will feel adventurous vibes in the coal mine, be impressed by hatching eggs and fall in love with the fairy castle dollhouse. A bonus is the Idea Factory, a play area where children can have fun and discover air pressure, magnetism, and other phenomena.
Peggy Notebaert Museum
This kid-friendly museum has tons of activities tailored for little ones. Storytelling, live animal feedings and hands-on projects are only a few of the events this museum located in the heart of Lincoln Park has to offer for curious children. A great indoor escape when the weather is not friendly.
Movies in the Parks
In summer, the Chicago Park District, the organization which manages the public spaces across the city, organizes Movies in the Parks, a series of outdoor cinema screenings. Check the program, cross your fingers and you might be able to watch a classic childhood movie or a family blockbuster while enjoying a picnic in Millennium Park.
Ride the Metro
The beloved character of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer was born in Chicago, and the city has many festive traditions this time of year (you might be interested in discovering more in A Stroll Around Chicago). If you visit the Windy City during Christmas with kids, don’t forget to ride the ‘L’, the Chicago elevated metro, with one train in particular adorned with Christmas images and thousands of twinkling lights to outline the shape of the train. Alternately you might get on a holiday-themed bus. Check the local public transportation authority, CTA, to see times and lines.
Just in front of the Ritz Carlton and Water Tower Place, Seneca Park is the perfect spot where the whole family can have a playful break from the shopping on Magnificent Mile. This little park is in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city and contains two playgrounds with the equipment divided up by age group. The kids will love the small fire station and the friendly firemen inside just adjacent to the park.
Shopping for kids in Chicago
Kids love to play, even in stores. A few steps away from each other and on the main shopping street, Michigan Avenue, don’t miss the Disney Store and Water Tower Place for the Lego Store and American Girl Place. The latter is heaven for all doll lovers and contains an actual hairdresser salon, a restaurant for kids with a doll (and caregiver!) only, a massive selection of ‘me and my doll’ matching outfits and the possibility to create your own personalized toy.
Top tip – If you are planning to go to American Girl Place with kids and you want to avoid a disappointment, then book the hairdresser appointment and the restaurant reservation well in advance. People flock to the store from all over the US and especially during weekends it is often crowded and fully booked.
Willis Tower Deck
If your kids want to get a view from the top, the Willis Towers (also known as the Sears Tower) Skydeck is the place to go.
Have you ever traveled with your children to Chicago? Did you discover an unusual place your child truly enjoyed? Do you need more info to navigate your next journey? Please get in touch and share your thoughts!